Legal implications of car accidents involving autonomous vehicles

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Car Accidents |

The rise of autonomous vehicles, which use advanced technology to drive with little or no human input, brings new challenges to Florida’s legal system. In 2023, Florida made it legal to use a fully autonomous vehicle with or without a driver.

This technology promises safer roads, but accidents can still happen. When they do, determining liability becomes complex.

Defining liability

In traditional car accidents, the fault is often clear. Drivers may be at fault due to speeding, distracted driving or other violations. With autonomous vehicles, the situation changes. If an autonomous vehicle causes an accident, who is responsible? The driver, the car manufacturer and the software developer could all be liable.

Product liability

In Florida, product liability laws can hold manufacturers accountable for defects. The manufacturer may be liable if a vehicle’s autonomous system malfunctions and causes an accident. This applies if the defect existed when the vehicle left the manufacturer. It also applies if the defect made the vehicle unreasonably dangerous.


Negligence is another key factor. If a driver fails to maintain the autonomous system, they could be at fault. For example, ignoring software updates or not following manufacturer guidelines can lead to accidents. In such cases, the driver’s negligence could be the cause.

Shared responsibility

There can be situations where both the manufacturer and the driver share responsibility. For instance, if a driver overrides the autonomous system and causes an accident, both parties could be at fault. The court may apportion liability based on the degree of fault.

Insurance challenges

Insurance companies also face challenges with autonomous vehicles. Traditional insurance models assume human error as the primary cause of accidents. With autonomous vehicles, insurers must adjust policies to cover software failures and system malfunctions. Florida’s insurance laws may need updates to address these changes.

Legal precedents

Few legal precedents exist for autonomous vehicle accidents. Florida courts may look to other states or countries for guidance. As more autonomous vehicles hit the roads, more cases will emerge, helping to shape the legal landscape.

Autonomous vehicles offer exciting possibilities for safer roads. However, they also introduce complex legal issues regarding car accidents. As technology evolves, Florida’s legal system must adapt to address these new challenges.


attorneys Brad Culpepper and Brett J. Kurland